Term of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Karen Naufel

Committee Member 1

C. Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 2

James Pugh


People with mental illness are stigmatized (Mann & Himelein, 2004), especially in rural areas (Komiti, Judd, & Jackson, 2006). However, methods for assessing stigmatization are often susceptible to the social desirability bias, or the methods neglect to examine stigmatization towards specific types of mental illness. Thus, the aims of the current study were to assess the current prevalence of stigma toward those with mental illness and determine if certain mental illnesses are stigmatized to different degrees. In order to meet these aims, stigmatization of individuals with mental illness was examined in rural areas utilizing the lost letter technique, a technique that reduces social desirability bias. Specifically, appointment cards from resource centers for people with schizophrenia, depression, skin cancer, or the Gay/Lesbian Alliance group were dropped at local businesses in rural towns. The return rate and length of time it took to return the letters were measured. No significant differences were found in rates of return among conditions. However, secondary analyses suggested that specific factors of the lost letter technique may predict rate of return, which found marginally significant results for two factors: population size of the town the letter was dropped in and the type of business at which the letters were dropped. Possible explanations for the low rate of return seen in the present study, as well as ways to increase the rate of return when using the lost letter technique are discussed.